Five universities and a pair of Chicago-area ventures have won state grants to help develop high-quality lab space for biotechnology and pharmaceutical research under a new incentive program created by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration.
The state’s Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity today will announce the recipients that will collectively receive $15.4 million to build or renovate such lab spaces, a move it hopes will help address a lack of research space in the region that for years has led early-stage life sciences companies to defect to other, more mature research markets as they grow.
The money, which comes from the $45 billion capital bill the state passed in 2019, also requires that developers match any grant funding they receive. Eight projects with a combined value of $90 million won funding from the program. Five grants are for projects in the Chicago area, while the other three are in downstate Illinois.
“Illinois is home to one of the fastest-growing life sciences startup clusters, fueled by an influx of venture investment and growth of our wet lab infrastructure,” John Conrad, president and CEO of the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization industry trade group, said in a statement. The program “will provide critical investments to support the continued growth of our industry in Illinois.”
Here are the grant recipients and brief descriptions of how they plan to use the money:
- NuMat Technologies ($3.5 million): A Skokie-based nanotechnology research company formed by Northwestern University graduate students, NuMat will put the money toward development of the Illinois Molecular Factory, a 50,000-square-foot facility “dedicated to translational research and biochemical nanotechnology commercialization” in Illinois. The group is considering locations in Skokie and the northern suburbs.
- Northwestern University ($3 million): The school will use the money to renovate an existing lab space building in downtown Evanston and form “the Hub,” an incubator for life sciences startups. The space will include a half dozen wet lab spaces, as well as offices and classroom space.
- Southern Illinois University-Carbondale ($2.7 million): Funds will go toward the school’s BioLaunch Core Facility on the western edge of its campus, which will include lab space and a business annex.
- Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science ($2 million): The school in North Chicago will use the money to speed up the buildout “by at least one to two years” of its Innovation & Research Park, which opened in early 2020 and still has parts under construction. The facility includes Rosalind Franklin’s Helix 51 life sciences start-up incubator and other high-quality lab spaces for faculty and commercial tenants.
- Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville ($1.9 million): Money will help expand and renovate wet lab facilities at the school’s National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center next to its biotechnology incubator.
- Illinois Institute of Technology ($1.5 million): The Bronzeville school plans to use the funding to renovate lab space at the new Functional Neural Technology Center at IIT’s Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science & Engineering. The space will create a specialized lab for research in “translational neurotechnology.”
- University of Illinois Research Park ($550,000): Money will be used to subsidize the buildout of tenant lab spaces at LabWorks, a life sciences annex to the EnterpriseWorks Tech Incubator and Entrepreneurship Center in Champaign. LabWorks focuses on retention of agricultural technology start-ups in Central Illinois by providing research space for companies that have outgrown the incubator.
- Back of the Yards Algae Sciences ($250,000): The food science company will use the money to build out lab space at the Plant, a “food innovation laboratory” at 1400 W. 46th St. on the South Side. The lab is meant to advance research of “innovative, sustainable foods and food ingredients, including alternative proteins and plant and cell-based products.”